Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 29, 2001

Johnsons trial put off until February

By Gail Lipe

Robert Lyle Johnson and Richard Dean Johnson did not appear in court on Oct. 23. Their attorneys, Peter Kasal and Paul Rogosheske, met with McLeod County Attorney Mike Junge at the bench of Judge Rex D. Stacey.

After the private discussion, a new settlement conference date was set for Feb. 5, 2002, with a jury trial beginning on Feb. 12.

The Johnsons trial was to begin on Oct. 23 regarding felony charges in connection with the now closed Johnson Motor Company Inc. Each one is charged with one felony count of failure to pay sales tax, six felony counts of defeating security on personal property and one felony count of theft by swindle.

The complaint that was filed on Feb. 27, 2001, alleges that seven vehicles were sold between Nov. 1, 1996, and April 11, 2000, without the titles being transferred or sales tax being paid. This resulted in the state not receiving $7,300 in sales tax and fees.

It also alleges that Johnson Motor Company transferred vehicles that were secured by banks to retail buyers without transferring title or paying the lending institutions.

The effect of these alleged crimes was that the retail buyers were not listed on the title as the legal owner, and the financial institutions were deprived of their security interest in the vehicles and leases.

The total amount outstanding as of September 2000 was over $250,000 that the dealership received and should have paid to the lending institutions.

The charge of theft by swindle comes from the allegation that when Daimler Chrysler Corporation closed down Johnson Motors, eight vehicles, owned by Chrysler and valued at over $200,000, were missing.

The complaint alleges that they were sold to retail customers without the dealership remitting the wholesale cost to Daimler Corporation.

Another complaint has been filed alleging that Johnson Motor Company borrowed over $24,000 from First Community Bank in Lester Prairie in February 1998 to purchase a 1998 Plymouth Grand Voyager, agreeing to repay the loan in 11 installments of $400 each. The agreement was to have the loan paid in full by Feb. 25, 1999.

The complaint alleges that over $19,500, including interest, is still owed as of Aug. 15.

It also alleges that First Community Bank was to be put on the vehicle titles as first secured party at the time of the transaction. Instead, the vehicles were sold to third parties and the proceeds were not given to the bank.

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